Six-year-old Carlton Ashman and his sister, four-year-old Sarah, were secretly fathered by Charlie Lowden, who died after a hernia operation. At the age of 15, Lowden donated sperm to Claire Ashman, 31, the civil partner of his aunt, Sarah Ashman. His donation enabled her to fall pregnant and a few years later they asked for his help again.
The couple had agreed to keep the donations a secret, but Lowden's death forced his aunt to reveal the identities of the children to her sister, Lynn.
Sarah Ashman, who entered a civil partnership with Claire after a 13-year relationship, told the Daily Telegraph: 'Charles was very special to me. He was great. When he died, it was our secret. But I had to tell Lynn. I couldn't go through life not telling her because they are her grandchildren'.
Mrs Lowden and her husband took legal action against Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust after their son's death. Charlie Lowden became seriously ill ten days after a routine hernia operation performed at Hexham General Hospital in November 2009.
He was rushed to Wansbeck General Hospital but discharged the following day. He had been vomiting blood and doctors misdiagnosed a post-operative blood clot as a suspected chest infection.
The Trust has agreed to pay a total of £85,000 in compensation following a settlement of the medical negligence claim. The Ashmans' children have both been given a trust fund of £35,000, which they will receive once they turn 18.
Mrs Lowden said: 'We didn't want to accept their offer because, at first, they refused to acknowledge the kids. [...] We told them we would accept an offer if they recognised them, which they have now done'.
A Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust spokesman said: 'We are deeply saddened by the death of Mr Lowden and wish to again express our sympathies to his family at this difficult time. Whilst a settlement has been made, we recognise it will not compensate the family for their loss'.